I sat down with Erica Halverson, founder and CEO of TINY e PAPER. We talk about creating a self-sustaining business model, building out the industrial hemp supply chain, and the importance of consistent education throughout the industry.
It’s no secret the cannabis industry has a waste problem. Despite working with one of the most versatile plants on the planet, cannabis is woefully under-utilized, producing tons of waste in the name of growing buds.
Erica Halverson is changing that.
Halverson is the founder and CEO of TINY e PAPER, a company that makes pure hemp paper from stock and post CBD extraction waste. And we’re not talking rolling papers. TINY e PAPER is a B2B business, specializing in hemp paper for packaging, labeling, receipt rolls and more. Halverson was inspired to start the company after a lightbulb moment when she was surrounded by packaging trash made from trees.
Halverson had been “out of the green closet” and in the industry for a while, but in that moment, she realized that the cannabis industry needed to change. Why surrounded a wonderful product with irresponsible trash? From that day forward, it was her mission to get the cannabis industry away from tree paper in favor of hemp paper.
But a dedicated mission doesn’t make an uphill climb any easier. Halverson has faced, and is facing, a variety of challenges, not the least of which the lack of infrastructure for processing cannabis. Her supply chain is based is Europe because the US lacks the infrastructure needed for industrial hemp processing. Never one to be easily deterred, Halverson is currently raising money to buy her own processing machines to streamline not just her process, but for other businesses as well.
And other cannabis businesses are an important part of her journey. Halverson is a firm believer in the entourage effect within the industry. She takes the waste of extraction companies and puts it to good use while seeking out partnerships to use the remainder of the plant that she doesn’t need. It benefits her clients and is also great marketing point for all of her partners (not to mention a line-item reduction for waste disposal on the P&L). She’s carving out a path to make the supply chain for processing cannabis more easily available and cost-efficient in the US.
Halverson’s journey with cannabis is a deeply person one. When she first started smoking, weed was instrumental in her journey to health and losing over 100 pounds. At the time, she couldn’t explain why but today we know it’s thanks to THCV, the cannabinoid prominent in African sativa strains that suppresses the appetite.
So what’s next? Halverson is focused on moving the needle forward; for the public cannabis culture and the processing infrastructure in the US. She’s determined to create a self-sustaining business model where every piece of the plant is used to the benefit of the industry and the consumer.
What are you most excited about in the industry right now?
EH: The innovation that I hear from just about everyone I talk to. There are so many men and women doing some freakishly fantastic and innovative things with this plant. It’s just wonderful. It’s the most exciting time cannabis has had because we’re growing so fast. It just blows my mind every single day to hear the ideas people are working on, and to meet equally passionate people. There’s not a lot of industries that truly have people whole-heartedly invested.
Another exciting thing is where the industrial hemp industry will be in 3 to 5 years. I think we’re finally getting the attention we deserve; we’re finally coming up to par showing our importance and starting to right the supply and demand imbalance that stems from 2019. We’re finally starting to normalize that.
Sustainability is a big part of your business. What clicked for you?
EH: It started with an idea and it just kept snowballing as the word “sustainable” kept growing for me
I just had a lightbulb moment and I started doing a ton of research. I found that no one in the states was making 100% pure hemp paper and nobody was focusing on cannabis. I started researching CBD and found they were producing all this waste. I had my product developer, who was the first person to do 100% hemp rolling papers, who had tried to use CBD waste. I said, why don’t we see if we can use this for regular paper as well?
Then I started thinking about how we can utilize this plant holistically and not consider any of it trash. That got me thinking about creating a self-sustaining ecosystem where all the waste from my farmers and extractors that I can’t use for paper, I’m going to work with an eco-recycling company to make a living soil. That living soil will go back to my farmers which gives them higher quality product and better yields which give me higher quality product and better yields, and that’s how we create a self-sustaining ecosystem.
What I’m trying to show that just making hemp paper can touch every single aspect of the cannabis industry. From the farmers, who I would love to buy direct from, to anyone who needs processing once I get my equipment.
What does social equity mean to you?
EH: I hate the word social equity. Because all the social equity programs in cannabis did was divide us. Nobody that doesn’t need a license for their business got to be included in social equity. I was completely left out of every social equity program. It just divided us into those who need a license and those who don’t. What makes you think that people who need a license need funding and help any more than I do without a license?
We need to come up with a better term; we are not being equitable and we are not being inclusive. That first step in solving the problem is understanding what the problem is. There was a report that just came out from MJ Biz showing both minorities and women are losing ground in the cannabis industry; fallen below the national average in any other industry.
If we continue to shut out minorities and women, we will not be able to sustain the cannabis industry as a whole. That’s what social equity means to me. It supposed to include everybody and all it’s done is show everyone we’re not [included]. Too many times women like me will talk about the problems we’re having in leadership and losing women and we get ignored. We’re told we’re emotional, we need to work harder and that’s not true.
What do you want customers to take away from an experience with you?
EH: Right now? I need patience right now. It’s a hard process to get started. I tell everyone who’s asking me for quotes to have patience. Understand the industry is not quite where it needs to be yet, TINY e PAPER is not quite where it needs to be yet but we’re going to get there together. I appreciate everyone who jumps on board and understands that this is difficult. Some things have taken a little longer than I wanted, I wasn’t able to fulfill a quote because there’s no manufacturer in the US who will touch this. Every single order that’s come across has had a different challenge behind it. We’re doing all of this for the first time.
Pricing isn’t where it needs to be either; I don’t have a supply chain in the US where I can get my raw material from. Soon, but right now I have to pay for material coming from Europe and it makes a difference. I’m looking forward to when I’m able to turn all of my facilities stateside. we’re going to get there- but we’re hemp pioneers.
Where do you see the future of the industry?
Eh: We’re going to be on such a different global scale. There’s going to be a lot more partnerships with other countries. We’re growing as an industry globally at the same time, and that doesn’t happen a lot in history. We’ve got a unique opportunity with scaling. I’m excited to see where we go as an entire world. It’s crazy to see where we’ve been and where we’ve gotten in such a short amount of time.
What’s your favorite fun fact about cannabis?
EH: Cannabis can take your appetite away as well as give you the munchies! I have to explain some of the science to be able to explain that, and it triggers people to find something interesting.